Song of the Week #19- Santa Claus is Coming to Town

On the eve of Thanksgiving no song seemed more appropriate than the classic “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”.  Thanksgiving day is the traditional arrival time of St. Nick.  Although, as we have discussed in previous posts, he has already been at the mall for a couple of weeks.  I am a bit more of a traditionalist.  My earliest memories of Thanksgiving morning are of watching the Macy’s parade and waiting eagerly for the end and Santa Claus.  Then I knew it was time for Christmas.  I have spent 40 years watching this parade and have welcomed Santa to our family holiday season with my mom every time.  (Happy Birthday today to the best Mom ever too- Love ya Mom!)

So back to the song about the big man in red’s arrival to town.  The song was written in 1934 by lyricist Haven Gillespie who took the words to his song-writing partner, John Frederick Coots.  Coots read the words and had the structure of the music written in just about 10 minutes!  They shopped the song around to singers and publishers and had no takers.  The response all around was that it was “silly” and too “childish”.  Not settling for that response they took the song to friend and radio show host, Eddie Cantor. Cantor had a wildly popular show and was known as the “Apostle of Pep”.  His influence was so huge he is credited with much of the early success of and possibly coined the phrase March of Dimes.  The day after the performance on his radio show in November of 1034 they had orders for more than 100,000 copies of the sheet music.  By Christmas they had sold 400,000 copies!  The song continued to be a popular choice for recordings for the next 35 years.  In 1970 the song formed the basis of the new animated television special of the same name.  The Rankin Bass production was another stop-animation creation filmed using “animagic”.  It featured the voices of Mickey Rooney as Santa and, more important to our song, Fred Astaire as the narrating postman.  The special ends with Astaire finally singing the song after telling the story of how Santa got his start.  Check out that version and others too:

Fred Astaire– original animation and TV special recording
Bruce Springsteen– The Boss gives his twist to the song in this live concert footage
Michael Buble– Crooner and his big band handle the song with style
Justin Bieber– Beebs makes himself part of the original animagic for his video
Jackson 5– Michael and his brothers give it the Motown treatment


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